This story initially featured on Saveur.
Given West Africa’s range, names for grilled meat snacks are likely to range by nation and ethnic group. The most typical are afra (Gambia), chichinga (Ghana), dibi (Guinea Bissau, Senegal), and tsire suya, or typically simply suya or soya (Nigeria).
On this grilling technique, the meat is thinly sliced or minimize into small items, skewered with metallic or moist wooden, after which rapidly grilled. Any meat might be cooked this manner, although beef, rooster, goat, and lamb are the most well-liked choices. In type and performance, the grilled meat snacks share similarities with shish kebabs within the Center East and yakitori in Japan. The true star in West Africa, although, is the seasoning. Relatively than relying primarily on marinating the meat in liquids to impart taste, West African cooks apply a flavorful spice rub to the meat earlier than cooking it over charcoal.
James Beard Basis Award–nominated chef, cookbook writer, and entrepreneur Pierre Thiam, a local of Senegal, noticed that this meals “originates in Hausa land, situated in northern Nigeria and southeast Niger, in the present day’s northern reaches of the area of the nomadic Hausa folks, who journey all through West Africa seeking pastureland for his or her cattle.” Wherever the Hausa went, these grilled meats adopted, they usually rapidly developed many devoted followers. Nobody is aware of for positive when these savory snacks have been first bought, however they’re undoubtedly a vibrant a part of the area’s present avenue meals cultures.
Simply because the grilled meats have completely different names all through the area, the identical goes for the spice rub. The most well-liked are known as tankora, yaji, or chichinga powder. The powders’ key components present how enthusiastically West Africans have embraced spices from different locations. Within the Center Ages, Arab merchants introduced well-established warming spices like cinnamon ginger, black pepper, garlic, paprika, and white pepper to the area from Eurasia. Throughout the centuries of the transatlantic slave commerce, European merchants launched West Africans to the botanical items of the Americas, specifically cornmeal (from maize), peanuts, and purple pepper. In time, these international spices have been substituted for native components and integrated into the usual recipes.
Tankora powder is flexible, and it has a beautiful “Do it Your self” vibe. You possibly can modify the quantity of any ingredient to get a taste profile that pleases your palate. Need to strive one thing completely different? You may additionally use this seasoning to enliven many forms of protein that you simply need to throw on the grill. Along with the standard meats utilized in West Africa, strive a firm-fleshed fish like halibut, mahi mahi, monkfish, salmon, swordfish, or tuna. The powder additionally works properly on grilled tomatoes or greens like bell peppers, mushrooms, and onions. Simply be sure to have sufficient oil brushed onto these components in order that the powder adheres. Whenever you’re able to get your grill on, strive Chef Pierre Thiam’s Spicy Grilled Kebab (Dibi Hausa) recipe. It’s positively a crowd-pleaser.